UCC student films stratosphere using weather balloon (video)

6 Oct 2014

Gerard Prunty with his weather balloon prior to take-off. Image: Emulex Labs.

Amazing new footage of the stratosphere above Ireland has been recorded using a weather balloon launched by Gerard Prunty, a fourth-year computer science student at University College Cork (UCC).

To record footage 30 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, Prunty created a weather balloon that contained a variety of sensors to judge its altitude, air pressure and temperature all controlled through a powerful Intel Galileo board with software created by Prunty and engineers from Emutex Labs based in Limerick.

The project was initiated through Emutex Lab’s scholarship, which had awarded Prunty with the 2014 Software Innovator of the Year scholarship to develop his idea and, as Anthony Fee of Emutex explains in his article about the project, required a lot of preparation to make sure it came back in one piece.

Facing temperatures as low as -60°C, the weather balloon’s equipment would contain a mobile phone which would send an SMS every minute giving the co-ordinates of the balloon with all the other equipment, including cameras, sealed in a box to protect it from the harsh elements.

The balloon performed admirably throughout its journey, despite the team losing communication with it for a period of time, but thankfully it made a safe landing near Cashel, Co Tipperary, 100 kilometres east of their original starting point at the Met Éireann Valentia Observatory in Cahersiveen, west Kerry.

Prunty will now trawl through the environmental data to get a picture of the conditions in Earth’s upper reaches, but in the meantime the team has uploaded an amazing video of the balloon’s journey recorded on its internal cameras.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic